The productivity rules I break to be productive

A recent article espoused the rules Tim Ferris came up with as the perfect ‘STOP DOING’ list to improve productivity.

I can say without much equivocation that I am an extremely productive person. It is a big claim and hard to prove to the casual reader. But here is a snapshot of my email inbox.

There are exactly 5 emails – and all of them require me to take an action that I must do. When I go to bed – there may be one or two – usually none. Even my junk email folder gets emptied several times a day.

I break EVERY ‘rule’ the productivity experts come up with:

Do Not Answer Calls from Unrecognized Numbers

I don’t think I am that special. I don’t want to limit all future human interaction with only people that I know. If someone went to the trouble of finding me or my (unlisted) number I am happy to talk. It may be short but only after I have listened.

Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night AND Do Not Check Email Constantly

I check email all the time – including first thing and last thing.  But I deal with 95% of them only once: delete, file, action or refer. It takes a few seconds per email on average and it doesn’t matter WHEN you spend the time – logically – just that you do it efficiently.

(I have a short attention span, and every few minutes I sue the break in my attention to quickly nail a few emails, then return to what I was doing. It may not work fro everyone, but in my case I am constantly engaged with one thing at a time, and I optimise my productivity that way.)

Do Not Agree to Meetings or Calls With No Clear Agenda or End Time  

This may only apply if I am the most senior person in the meeting. If my boss asks me to attend a meeting I would go and suggest you do to.

Do Not Let People Ramble

What a rude suggestion. We are not all the same. It may take a few minutes  extra to get to the point but if you rush someone or cut them off, the point they want to make will probably be not the same and besides, the most important thing in a relationship is the initial ‘likability’ which is dialled to zero if you cut someone off.

Do Not Overcommunicate With Low-Profit, High-Maintenance Customers

If they are a customer, they are a customer and are treated as such. If you don’t want them as a customer, then ‘fire’ them and then you don’t have to communicate at all.

These are just the top 5. In the interest of my own productivity I will stop there because the point is made:

Be careful who you accept advice from because just because it works for one (or even a thousand) does not mean it is right for you.

Bad news: Daddy is Santa

Daddy is Santa

You started out believing the lie about Santa. Eventually, logic and the slow realisation that it would be embarrassing to believe something none of your friends did won out and you pushed back enough to force an admission from our parents.

So you face up to the brutal truth.

This is a story that plays out around December of every year in an endless cycle.

Some people say – one could even say there is universal consensus – that it is healthy for the child to indulge in the fantasy. Let the kids be kids; even if we have to lie to them. We convince ourselves that it is innocent or that it is a tradition. These Christmas experiences become part of the stories that enrich our lives.

The problem though, is that we carry this indulgence into our adulthood. We continue to live in a fantasy world filled by beliefs about our abilities and beliefs about how the world works that are completely unrealistic. We think we fit into the world by being near the centre, where most if not all revolves around us.

This misguided belief is not caused by the initial belief in Santa, but it is symptomatic about what seems to be an innate human trait. It starts by us believing someone magical will fulfil our wishes and then morphs into believing we deserve good things. And worse, that we are actually pretty good.

There are exceptions to the rule, but a good start is for us not to think we are the exception. Chances are:

  • ·        You are not that attractive. (You may still be loved by someone and someone may countenance your visage – but being loved is not the same as being pretty.)
  • ·        You are not that smart. (Hello bell-curve.)
  • ·        You can’t sing. (Australian Idol thrives on that.)
  • ·        Your customer service sucks. (Research shows and customers will tell you so.)
  • ·        Your start-up idea sucks. (That is why you can’t get funding.)
  • ·        Your friends are just not that in to you. (That is why they never call.)
  • ·        Your blog posts aren’t that interesting. (Google’s got nothing against you; they don’t care enough.)

You don’t deserve to be healthy or happy. The universe owes you nothing. There is no Santa.

Is that reason to despair?

Of course not:

You are not built like Usain Bolt and you will never run as fast. But you can train harder, run faster and run further.

You don’t cook like Nigella, but you can enjoy the meal.
You don’t sing like a Nightingale but nothing needs to stop you.
Being pretty, smart or perfect in anyway is not a prerequisite to living life.

Accepting your limitations and giving life a fair old crack despite those limitations is the true hallmark of a life well lived.

Being deluded about how great you are, either means you have been watching too many movies or read too many self-help books. Or you have never lost faith that a Santa still exists and his sole purpose is to delight and surprise you.

Well, he doesn’t. Santa is your dad. Get over it. Christmas is just as much fun giving gifts and knowing who gave  you a gift – even if you have to go the shop to buy it.

10 Lessons you can learn from Lionel Messi’s success is the greatest footballer

Messi was born in Rosario, Santa Fe Province, to factory steel worker, and a part-time cleaner.  At the age of five, Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father Jorge. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell's Old Boys in his home city Rosario. He became part of a local youth powerhouse that lost only one match in the next four years and became locally known as "The Machine of '87", from the year of their birth.

At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Local powerhouse River Plate showed interest in Messi's progress, but were not willing to pay for treatment for his condition, which cost $900 a month. Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, was made aware of his talent as Messi had relatives in Lleida in western Catalonia, and Messi and his father were able to arrange a trial with the team.

Rexach, with no other paper at hand, offered Messi a contract written on a paper napkin. Barcelona offered to pay Messi's medical bills on the condition that he moved to Spain. Messi and his father duly moved to Barcelona, where Messi enrolled in the club's youth academy.

And the rest as they say is history.

By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. The following year, he won his first Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He followed this up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2010, and 2011 and 2012. He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona's all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. At age 25, Messi became the youngest player to score 200 goals in La Liga's matches.

Commonly ranked as the best player in the world and rated by some in the sport as the greatest of all time, Messi is the first football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballons d'Or, all of which he won consecutively, as well as the first to win three European Golden Shoe awards. With Barcelona, Messi has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

Messi is the first and only player to top-score in four consecutive Champions League campaigns, and also holds the record for the most hat-tricks scored in the competition. In March 2012, Messi made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match.

1.      There is no substitute for talent.

2.      You need a bit of luck and connections.

3.      But it doesn’t matter if you come from a modest background.

4.      If you are good you will get the opportunity to succeed, but you must still capitalise on the opportunity.

5.      In the face of the challenge (childhood illness) persistence pays off.

6.      Expert opinions are not always worth that much – there is a club out there who regrets passing over on the opportunity to sign the little maestro.

7.      It is not about the physical ability, but the mental ability.

8.      His first instinct is to seek the goal: it is uncanny how aware he is of where the goal is even if he has his back to the goal.

9.      He sees gaps and takes gaps no one sees or takes.

10.   The highest accolade is not money, but the recognition of your peers. (Not in the shallow, politicised style of the Oscars, but rather the spontaneous acknowledgement of your peers.) In the face of that adulation, his instinctive reaction is one of humility. Watch this and you will see what I mean.


If you don't know...

Do you admit when you don’t know?

Some people find it easier than others to admit their ignorance whilst others would rather die than admit so and simply make it up.

I suspect that most people will, if asked, say that they are happy to admit that they don’t know something. In my experience, however, the reality suggests that most people hate pleading ignorance.

It is easy to admit we don’t know something, when that ‘something’ is outrageously difficult, obscure and far removed from our day to day existence. Most people will happily admit that they know nothing about Quantum Physics or the specific atmospheric conditions on the moon.

But let’s imagine that you are a bit of sports-nut and you are sitting on the coach watching your favourite sport, say AFL, with your girlfriend. The umpire makes a certain call. You don’t know for sure whether the call is for a high tackle, a push in the back or an illegal bump. She does not know much about the sport.

How do you answer her? Honestly?

In this scenario, you are now in a position where you must plead ignorance on a topic that will consequently involve a loss of ego. After all, you are supposed to know, right?

The same scenario plays out in workplace everyday. People get asked questions about something that they can reasonably be expected to know about. If there is the slightest chance that the person asking won’t know the difference, most people will straight up lie.

Some may argue that they are only waffling.

But ‘the waffle’ is the twin brother of the white lie. A lie is a lie – irrespective of the nobility of the purpose to mask the truth.

Not admitting ignorance is just another lie – even if it dressed up as waffle that the receiver may not recognise as such.

  • What kind of manager/ leader are you when confronted with a question where ignorance will cause a loss of ego?
  • Is your ego more important than the truth?
  • Is your ego more important than the trust of the other party?

People may rationalise their decision to pretend they know because they think that it displays/ asserts confidence and that people want a leader who is ‘assured’ in their knowledge.

They fail to understand something very important.

It is not the admission of ignorance that harms your ego, it is the next sentence or the next action that matters.

It is perfectly OK to say, “I don’t know’ but I will find out.” Or to say: “I should probably know that, but I don’t. But I know who does…”.

Like ANY kind of defeat, it is not the defeat itself that shapes who you are. It is what you do next.

This post was cross-posted at LInkedIn.

Why you never win

… is because you try to win.

A few salient points to consider from the talk"

  1. When an argument starts, persuasion stops.
  2. As soon as people are confronted with information being in conflict with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic went dormant.
  3. When trying to win over someone whose natural allegiances are not with you, getting into an argument is a sure way to fail.
  4. “Winning” comes from, is a metaphoric struggle for life and death now and nobody wants to die.
  5. Losing an argument means you learn something.

Note: this 'post' was use as an intro to my weekly newsletter. I thought it was worth posting here since not all newsletter readers are blog readers and vice versa. If you DON'T get the weekly #thinkdifferent update, you should think about it.



Ever wondered why your ideas don't float?

Hugh McLeod of Gavingvoid captures it well.

David McRaney writes on the same thing in his book (You are now less dumb - 2012).

Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do this instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information.

Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you.

Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens those misconceptions instead.

Over time, the backfire effect makes you less skeptical of those things that allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.

I think these two insights capture the essence of why it is so difficult to get people to change their minds. Because accepting YOUR idea often means abandoning one of their own.

You may know WHAT you think, but do you know HOW you think?


I spent 4 years doing my MBA. (And that was the minimum – 17 full year subjects plus a thesis; none of these ‘semester’ baby subjects. Those were the days.)

But truth be told, even though I think it was a pretty tough, demanding course, I can count on the one hand the things that I have learned and have kept using to this day. But these few lessons were so powerful that I consider my time and money well-spent…

One of those life-long insights was the discovery of the idea of General Systems Theory – or commonly referred to as Systems Thinking. (The topic of my thesis in the end.)

Anyway, the nomenclature is misleading in some ways because people’s notion of a ‘system’ has bureaucratic undertones, when in fact it is closer to a philosophy.

I am not going to try and educate you about systems thinking. That will take a lifetime because it is a broad church. I only want you, dear friend, follower and colleague, to have the opportunity to become aware of it, and if you so please, to start the journey to discover more about systems thinking.

If you explore my blog posts and other writings, you will see there is a constant reference to the power of little things, the laws of unintended consequences and the misunderstanding of the nature of outcomes.

You can get a collection of writings ON SUCCESS here, if you want to read some of it in a handy eBook format. (Or simply use the search function on the blog or explore the archives by topics.)

In any event, the notion of systems thinking is firmly entrenched as mental model, and it has governed how I think for a long time. Being a self-critical AND cynical old bastard, I am prone to question the things I believe constantly, and I can honestly say that every period of introspection is followed be DEEPER commitment to the validity and power of this particular worldview.

The following image does not explain what systems thinking is at all, but it lists some 17 steps or practical applications that illustrate how a systems thinker approaches problems.



2 things you should do with criticism

There are fine lines between encouragement, challenging someone to improve and criticising them.

Aside from when you are raising children (I think there is a different dynamic) most adults seem to err on the side of caution.

People tend not criticise. They avoid confrontation. Encouragement is always positive, and criticism is required to be 'constructive' - whatever that means.

If you are serious about personal development, growth and your own success, I have the following advice for you.

1. IGNORE all unsolicited advice and criticism.

It says more about the people who constantly criticise and offer unsolicited advice than it does about the subject of critique.

2.SOLICIT advice and criticism frequently – and learn to deal with it.

Embrace criticism, disagreements and confrontation. More than that, actively seek it out. Deal with it by recognising that the 'criticism' is about the process and not about the person.

Even when someone criticises you for being arrogant (for example) - it may seem at first glance that they are being critical of the person, but they really are simply articulating how they perceive your impact on themselves or possibly other people. It isn't a criticism of who you are. Even when it sounds like it or feels like it (at first cut) - take a pause to consider.

The person doing the criticising may just not have the skill to de-personalise the observation - and you need to simply re-frame that observation in your own terms. Then consider it objectively (unemotionally) and decide what to do about it.

You cannot live you life by avoiding criticism or moderating your actions by the light of every disagreement. You need to be stronger than that. Your self-identity should be strong enough to consider every criticism, evaluate what it means in the context of your own goals and objectives, and formulating an appropriate response.

And often the response is - or should be: 'mmmmh, interesting - I understand where they are coming from, but I am going to continue down this path.'

If the observation clarifies why you may be experiencing certain obstacles, then you may moderate your behaviour to facilitate achievement of your own goals.

I will leave the final word to one of my favourite thinkers (alive) and that is NN TALEB:

Be polite, courteous, and gentle, but ignore comments, praise, and criticism from people you
wouldn't hire.

What counts is not what people say about you, it is how much energy they spend saying it.

Never take an advice from a salesman, or any advice that benefits the advice giver.


How much will your life change IF…

As a young marketer as was responsible for a beer brand. Unlike the beers you are familiar with, this was a sorghum-based beer that was drank principally by the indigenous African people. (It was sour and it was looks a bit like dirty dish water and had a relatively poor ‘head’ of foam if at all.)

It was distributed in milk-cartons rather than glass bottles for a simple reason – the beer was still fermenting after being packed (it only had a shelf life of about 3-5 days depending on weather.) Having a (cheaper) carton-based container, also allowed us to leave a tiny pinprick in the top seal that allowed the pressure from the fermenting gases to be released, which of course would have been more difficult and expensive to achieve in an air-tight glass container.

The original packaging was a CONICAL shape, where the top was wider than the bottom. We could fit 15 containers per crate. Later we switched to the familiar TETRAPAK product which is the brick-shaped (rectangular) container as is commonly used today.

This one change enable us to fit 16 containers per crate. Being able to increase crate capacity from 15Litres to 16 Litres may seem like a small change, but it had massive financial benefits. (I can’t recall the exact figures any more, but it was certainly hundreds of thousands per year.)

You could still fit the same number of crates in a truck – but you could carry more beer. It still took the same amount of labour to load the truck, but productivity had increased by 6%.

To be clear, I wasn’t the bright spark who came up with that idea; but it was a lesson I learned young: the little things count.

Virgin has just discovered something along the same lines, and apparently they will save millions with a simple re-design of the food tray in Economy class.

A recent story about a teenager who did some research about font types and sizes that could save the US Government $400m is another case in point. (The actual facts are somewhat in dispute, because measuring font size is quite difficult. But the IDEA remains valid.)

Along the same lines, I wrote recently about the enormous impact of taking a 3% settlement discount on your payment terms.

All of these examples illustrate the same principle: little things make a big difference.

It is easier to see the impact with something like packaging and it is certainly easy to quantify when something physical is redesigned.

But what if …

You redesigned your meetings to start at 10 minutes after the hour and finish (strictly) five minutes before?

You did your staff scheduling in 15 minutes increments instead of 30 minutes?

You woke up 15 minutes earlier everyday? Or searched for a quicker route to work or caught the express bus instead of the regular?

You spent 10 minutes a day less on Facebook?

What if you wrote one page a week of that novel you always meant to write?

How much will your life change IF….


So, you want to be a good manager?

You would a A LOT worse than follow the heuristics on this slideshow. 

Whilst it was done by a Creative Director in an ad agency, there is not a single insight that doesn't apply to everyday managers.

You may wonder why I don't call this lessons in Leadership (as opposed to Management) - but that is a story for another day.

HT: BrandDNA

Trust is an opportunity

We think we make decisions rationally, but even as experienced business people we don’t. One key factor that influences us is TRUST. In order to be judged ‘trustworthy’ one must demonstrate the following four traits:

1.      Honesty

2.      Confidentiality

3.      Consistency (reliability)

4.      Willingness to change (if proven wrong)

Trust is hard won, and easily lost.

Little white lies and ‘innocent’ gossip are examples of how we lose trust without even thinking about it.

Trust is currency of business relationships so it is vital. It may seem like a ‘soft’ issue’ but it has ‘hard’ business benefits.

Newsagents in particular have the business opportunity to be trusted local community members and help differentiate themselves and build effective barriers to entry against competitors by the strength of relationships built on trust.

This applies to all relationships because all relationships of course, and when someone fails in this regard, we should work together to remedy that breach.

Because it pays to be trustworthy.

The 7 things successful retailers have in common


I am in the final stages of wrapping a project for retail client. The outcome was surprising in many ways.

It was the first time we had worked together. His business can be classified as a mega retailer, albeit with one store only it is a significant business.

After some discussion, my proposal was accepted and I got to work.

On the day I had to report back for the first time, I had to inform the client that I was knock a substantial chunk from bill and complete the project early.

The reason is not because I don’t like making money.

The reason is because he is so good at making money out of his retail business, that I could add relatively value and couldn’t justify my full fee.

Whilst there are probably a dozen or so actions that we can recommend, the truth is that these are quite minor and is really just about the final 1%. (On a big business that is a meaningful number, but nevertheless not the impact I had anticipated I might make.)

I have compiled a list of ways in which this retailer is different to the ones I usually meet. (And I have met thousands and worked with hundreds.)

Of course the store functions well operationally. (Clean, well merchandised, well-trained staff.) Those all the things I identified last week – and it goes without saying.

The question is: why does this particular person succeed at making those fundamentals happen when so many others don’t? I sought to identify the reasons BEHIND the successes achieved – the root causes so to speak.

  1. He is an entrepreneur – not a small businessman. (I won’t labour the point here, but it is a different mentality altogether.)
  2. He has empowered his staff fully (trained them well of course) and they truly KNOW and OWN their numbers – right down to GP% for sub-categories.
  3. He is a ‘nice guy’ – in the positive, ethical sense – and gets along with staff. I am confident that I could charge him 100% of my quote and he would honour it – even if scope turned out to be somewhat less than anticipated.
  4. While he is on-site a lot and stays in touch with the minutiae; even then he focuses on working on the business. (He has built great systems that fully integrate across all channels, it is up to date and produces reliable numbers that allows him to keep his hand on the tiller AND to make strategic decisions.)
  5. He invests (substantially – more than $15K per annum) in his own personal development and growth.
  6. He is willing to constantly, proactively seek out professional expertise and respond to it appropriately – before it is too late in a constant push to ensure that the business is fine-tuned.
  7. He invests and reinvests constantly in the business and the premises.

You may well argue that in a successful multi-million dollar business he can ‘afford’ to do these things – but I also now know that this has not always been the case.

What successful retail entrepreneurs understand above all else is that you can’t start doing these things ONCE you become successful, but that you have to do them IN ORDER to become successful.

GANADOR: Customer Acquisition, Retention and Engagement

What can you learn from boiling water?

It may seem like a silly question, right?

I guess you know that it is at 212°F or 99.98°C (lets’ call it 100, OK – and we agree this is at sea level?)

It takes a certain amount of time and energy to get water to boil.

How hard is it (what does it take) to get water to or 99°C or 211°F?

Very close to the same amount of effort, energy and time than it does to get it to boiling point.

BUT – if it doesn’t boil it doesn’t boil.

If it does not boil it does change. You have warm water, not boiling water.

It won’t become steam.

It does not transform.

All that effort and energy for nothing.

It is the same for your business. It may only need another 1 degree increase in temperature to be transformed.

Just one.


(HT to Wayne Mullins for the idea of this post.)

Beware the force of entropy

In to 1865, Rudolf Clausius coined the term "entropy" and stated that the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum. This idea is now known as the second law of thermodynamics and a measure of the "disorder" of the physical system.

Consider the behaviour of gas in a closed box. If you start with all the gas molecules in a corner of the box, the gas molecules will fill the box, increasing the entropy (tending to ‘chaos’ or disorder.)

Interestingly it never goes the other way: if the gas molecules fill the box, we will never see them spontaneously collect into one corner. (This one-way behaviour of matter is called the "arrow of time and is related to notion of ‘the arrow of time’ which I wrote about here.)

This is not just a phenomenon and it is not just a theory – this is one of the LAWS of the universe. (If you are interested in that sort of thing, you will know that this Law is not reconcilable with the idea of the spontaneous creation of the universe.)

Since the Second Law of Thermodynamics (systems tend towards chaos) is a universal law, then it also applies to all systems – including the system of your company.

As organisations grow (older and bigger) the natural law is that it will tend to towards disorder (entropy).

General observation of organisations and their natural lifecycles would tend to support that.

Of course your survival and your prosperity therefore depends on how well you can delay (fight) that natural tendency.

The tools to achieve this are:

  • Focus
  • Commitment
  • Discipline
  • Systems

Passion, energy, motivation et al may be the common prescription by ‘success gurus’, but the reality seems to be more mundane than that. If you searched online for ‘why following your passion is bad advice’, and you will find several arguments for and against.

In fact, MOTIVATION refers to internal (emotive) states whereas PASSION AND ENERGY reflect actions (behaviours). Emotions and feelings wax and wane, whereas action is something that can happen independently from emotions. Any entrepreneur will be able to relate stories of how they rocked up for work despite feeling miserable.

The only way to postpone entropy is to work at it. NO matter how you feel.



Something you can learn from Chumpy Pullin and his Sochi adventure


Let’s face it there are no rags to riches stories in winter sports. There is no kid from the Bronx that made it to the NBA. There is no Mexican street kid who goes on to become the world heavyweight boxing champion.

These sportspeople are typically people of privilege. Living in cold climates takes money. Living in hot climates and visiting the snow regularly takes money.

I know this because I grew up poor and skiing holidays were never on the radar.

My son loves snowboarding and het gets a season pass every year. So we watch the Sochi broadcast. And I find myself waiting up to see how Chumpy goes.

SO, why do I care about Chumpy Pullin and his Sochi dreams? He has his own website, He is healthy and attractive has a beautiful girlfriend – presumably a bit of cash and a lifestyle to match.



Why do I care about a person of privilege notching up yet another privilege?

The answer is very simple: LIKABILITY

I have written about how one becomes liked. It is CORE to the successful sales process. People will overlook all kinds of other issues if you are likable.

Alex (Chumpy) comes across like a nice guy – not a spoilt rich kid. I don’t know what he is really like, but the impression he gives is one of likability and for that reason I am prepared to be interested in his fortunes and hi successes and failures.

This is an attribute worth emulating by all people who are striving for success. It may sound simplistic, but trust me if I say there is good neuroscience behind this phenomenon.

And the best news is that it can be learned.

The emergent start-up culture has unintended consequences


Over at SVBTLE they have now allowed the plebs in. And I signed up. This is my first post. I can't say I will be writing a LOT over there, but I really like the look and feel of the site.


This is cross-posted from there:

The new dogma for an entrepreneurial start-up is:

  • get it up quickly
  • close enough is good enough
  • test
  • feedback
  • iterate
  • pivot, or - prove the concept

(Even VC is going that way - ala 500 Startups)

Is this really how entrepreneurship should work? Just because it can?

Most writing about start-ups references the Valley and equivalent places where the focus is on tech- and web start-ups. Of course these are not the only types of start-up.

It seems as if the philosophy that underpins the 'do the quick and dirty and figure out as you go along' works well in the digital space - because it can be done without great time penalty.

There are two problems with this.

1. It does not work for all types of start-up. E.g. in the B2B space it could spell disaster. Or imagine if a hardware start-up, selling say smoke detectors, decided to suck-and-see?

2. The UNINTENDED consequences of this approach is not (the desired) creation of a culture of rapid innovation, but rather one where risk is not considered and thoughtful planning and great execution are sacrificed at the alter of expediency.

Just because it works - or has worked - for so many of the current crop of start-ups, does not mean it is the right thing. If that is the way they all do it then cause (suck-and-see) and effect (success) do not necessarily follow because there is nothing to compare it too.

Hunting start-up success with a shotgun is one approach. I am just not sure if it is the one I prefer.

CLICK ON THE GEARS to help us set something in ,motion. 

CLICK ON THE GEARS to help us set something in ,motion. 

80% of success is about this


When you are a representative with something to sell to another person who is representing an organisation you are engaged in B2B sales. Whilst both parties are people (allegedly) the buyer is not a consumer. The psychology of the process may have some similarities but the processes and the environments are very different.

Unlike with Retail Selling (to the consumer) I don’t have any particular qualifications in this space, but I do have the experience of doing it. And being who I am, I constantly learn by following other pundits in this space and in that process I discovered some interesting statistics.

We are familiar with the notion a funnel, so I have created this graphic to illustrate funnelmental (geddit?) tension that exists between the behaviours of sales people and the behaviours of the buyers.

Perseverance Stats.PNG

The statistics are quite rubbery – in fact I have no doubt they are wrong. I cannot trace an original source – just people quoting people who quote people. However I firmly believe the general principle conveyed in these numbers holds true.

It really is nothing more than the Pareto Principle: That is, 80% of the sales come to the 20% who persevere. (The quoted statistics would suggest it is more like 95:5)

Breaking this down like this illustrates the point dramatically. Now you, as a representative, can ask yourself specifically how many follow-ups you execute?

I too am guilty of quitting after a couple initial attempts. I fall back on the blog to ‘stay in touch’. But that is an excuse because I know the blog is just a grain of sand on the internet beach.

Entrepreneur magazine has an article on how Jerry Seinfeld manages to produce so much, high quality comedy consistently. They relate the story of the advice Seinfeld gave to an aspiring comedian:

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

"After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain."

You'll notice that Seinfeld didn't say a single thing about results.

It didn't matter if he was motivated or not. It didn't matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn't matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was "not breaking the chain."

And that's one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld's remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on "not breaking the chain."

What is your excuse?

We are entering the season of Gift Fairs – so there will be a lot of B2B selling happening. A past business partner started an export business (gifts to the USA) and it took them four years of showing at the shows before they got a meaningful order. You may not do business the first time, but who knows what will happen if you stick to it?

This is the message of persistence – not about being a nuisance.

Not every person is a prospect, but if the representative has made an honest and accurate assessment of the buyer’s needs and that buyer (i.e. the retailer) is a true prospect, both parties will gain from the representative being persistent.

That consistency creates trust – which is the bedrock of a relationship.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Woody Allen

Have Fun


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Why you are screwed and don't even know it



We all went to school. Some of us may have learned more than others, some of us may have been in different types of schools, but essentially we all went through the same (or practically similar) educational system.

This system shaped what you do and believe today and your success today is influenced very much by those foundational years in school.

This image is taken of an actual public school in NSW. It is not necessary to be more specific, but images like that abound. Can you remember if words like these were used ‘as a charter’ at your school?

It would have been something an ambitious principle dreamt up and tried to shape the culture of the school accordingly.

If I as a parent saw this at a school where I may have had plans to take my kids, I would have worked very hard to get them into a different school.

If you look at those words what do you see?

Do you think I am nuts? What kind of parent would not want to have their kids adopt that charter as their value system?

I, for one, would not.

Read these insights from John Gatto, about the American educational system.

Schools intend “to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.”

And he quotes H.L. Mencken on the aim of American education: “The aim… is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”

When I read those four words on the wall of that public school, I translate them to one idea: CONFORMITY.

Those words are not there to encourage kids to try things; they don’t exhort them to aim high or not to fear anything. There is no excitement, challenge or sense of purpose.

Those four words are there to make the school easier to govern: responsibility, respect, co-operation and safety.

Those four words are about the teachers, not about the kids.

Maybe you were taught by teachers at a school like that. Mr Chips exist in real life and some of you may have had one of those, but I guess that would the minority.

This post is not about the educational system in this country, though it is thoroughly stuffed, but is about you and your business.

  • These are the question you should ponder and answer for yourself because it is influencing how you do business the way you do:
  • What was the lasting impact of those ‘values’ you were taught to put above all else?
  • Do those beliefs you now hold as consequence empower you or limit you?
  • What is the charter of your existing business?
  • What is the value set by which you govern? Is it about you or is about the customers and employees?
  • Do you understand the impact of these seemingly innocuous decisions?

If you have been battling to understand why your employees are not more motivated, and why your customers are not more loyal, it usually comes back to the value system that is in place. We put it in place without knowing that we do, and if we do, we often don’t fully appreciate the consequences (intended and otherwise)

How are the values that you are trying to put place influenced by those values of compliance and conformity that were drilled into you as a child?

USP. Niche. Segment. Point of Difference. Cut-through. Innovation. ALL THESE IDEAS require you to be original and think differently.

This is the million dollar question: Can you?

Or more pertinently:

With an educational system that values conformity and obedience above all, have you been equipped with the attitude to embrace change and enjoy challenges, or do you look to the government (or some authority figure or institution to fix things and control the environment for you the way they did in school?

Confronting, I know; but well worth a few moments of your time to as you embark on a new year with new challenges.

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Which Wolf Are You Feeding?


There’s a Native American tale about an old man who was telling his grandson a story about two wolves.


The old man said, “There’s a fight between two wolves. One is an evil wolf, filled with anger, resentment, greed, sadness, rage, envy, pride, ego, vanity, and superiority. The other is a good wolf, filled with peace, light, kindness, generosity, love, compassion, humility, benevolence, grace, hope, compassion, and faith.”

“Which of the wolves will win the fight, grandfather?” asked the boy.

The old man paused, considering the boy, then said, “Whichever one you feed.”


I have added the text to video animation below.

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